Judges 3

Main point:

God is following through with his promised consequences for disobedience from Deuteronomy (e.g. Ch 28-33). However he is also following through with his covenant promises originally made to Abraham, and so God continues to graciously raise up deliverers to save his people when they cry out for help. The main character and hero of the story is God.

Main purpose:

Warning against disobedience and unfaithfulness. And an encouragement to trust in the loving, faithful, promise-keeping God who wins each victory.

Supporting argument:

The book of Judges is a theological text. Despite it’s concern with Israel’s history in the promised land, it is God’s imperatives that direct the action as God orders the activities of the nations, and initiates the testing of the Israelites faithfulness (2:21-23). Judges clearly connects to the biblical narrative of what has gone before, with Judges 1:1 looking back to Joshua’s faithful conquest of the land and the period of obedience (Judges 2:7), and the final verse of Judges (21:25) looking forward to the impending period of the Israelite kings. In this way, Judges is an important connecting book showing the development of God’s salvation history, continuing the tensions from the patriarchal period of seeing the promises of God under threat in the promised land, and showing the link between God’s Abrahamic promises of people, place and blessing finding their fulfillment in the establishment of the physical kingdom of Israel in the promised land (1 Kgs. 4:20-25). (2)

Judges is to be read in the context of knowing that Israel has already failed to live up to it’s covenant promises. Ch 2 outlines the failure of the Israelites and how God is going to respond in judgment and testing. It is God who chooses to not drive out the people, and to use the nations that remain as a test (2:22-23). But the test is not for God’s sake, but for the people, to reveal to them the extent of their fidelity to God (1). There are real consequences for the Israelites failures. Their evil actions really result in divine curses. However Judges is not the story of Israel’s failure (their failure is already made clear to the reader in Ch 2), but the story of God’s continued faithfulness, grace and deliverance.

Ch 3 contains 3 of the Judge stories that continue through most of the rest of the book. Each story generally follows a pattern of “apostasy, subjugation, appeal, the raising up of a deliverer, peace”. (2) From Othniel, a well credentialed, proven military leader from the tribe of Judah; to Ehud the left-hand deceitful assassin from the tribe of Benjamin; to Shamgar, an ox driver (?), possibly not even an Israelite. God’s means of deliverance varies as he works through unexpected people, making the point that it is God’s work of deliverance. Even Othniel, the judge with the strongest pedigree, gets no credit himself but his credentials are that God raised him up and gave him his spirit (3:9-10).

A few of the judges are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as part of the summary of faithful biblical characters who have played a part in God’s salvation history. Again though, the point of these characters is not that they are exemplary examples to follow, but that the one in whom they put their faith is faithful. God works through flawed individual characters and an entire nation of disobedient unworthy recipients of grace to bring about the ultimate expression of salvation and blessing to all people through Christ (Heb 11:39-40, 12:2).

(1) Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth (vol. 6; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 139-147.

(2) Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 156–178.
(3) Andrew E. Hill,  A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

The title ‘Son of God’ in Mark’s gospel

The title and concept of ‘Son of God’ can have different meanings depending on the context – it can refer to exalted men (Gen. 6:2), angels (Job 1:6), all of Israel (Ex 4:22-23), or a unique descendant of David who would reign forever as God’s king (2 Sam. 7:12-14). In intertestamental times, the title came to anticipate a messianic eschatological redeemer of God (1).

Jesus’ original hearers would not have understand the title as declaring Jesus as God’s ontological equal, one part of the triune godhead (this understanding only developed after the resurrection (2)), however it would have been understood as a way of suggesting Jesus’ significant role and relationship to God. Bateman links ‘Christ’, ‘Son of David’, ‘Son of God’ and other similar phrases as parallel and complementary titles used in this Jewish context to point to Jesus’ messianic function, his pine authentication, commissioning and empowering by God (without arguing that the titles constitute claims of deity). (3)

Mark does not record many uses of the title ‘Son of God’ but it is a significant concept arising at key points in the gospel; from the introduction (which according to Wasserman most likely includes title ‘Son of God’ (4)), to Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration (1:11, 9:7), used by evil spirits to challenge Jesus (3:11, 5:7), through parabolic usage (12:6) and eschatological discourse (13:32), to the accusation by the high priest (14:61) and the declaration by the centurion (15:39). The use of the title ‘Son of God’ by the centurion at the cross is significant. Although the centurion’s statement could grammatically be taken as ‘a son of God’, it makes more sense to me that Mark intended this declaration at the cross as the highpoint of the revelation of Jesus as God’s son who takes away the sin of the world, being therefore a statement of pine identity, beyond what the gentile centurion himself could comprehend. (5)

Leim argues that for Mark, Jesus embodies multiple OT figures and hopes such that it is the combined picture that is summed up in the title ‘Son of God’ that does bind Jesus pine identity with God (4). It is possible then given the way Mark uses the title to complement the rich picture of Jesus he is presenting, that Mark’s original audience understood the title as supporting the claim of the gospel authors of Jesus’ deity.


(1) James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 482-483.

(2) Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition.; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 473-474.

(3) Herbert W. Bateman IV, ‘Defining the Titles “Christ” and “Son of God” in Mark’s Narrative Presentation of Jesus’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50.3 (2007): 537–559.

(4) Tommy Wasserman, “The ‘Son of God’ Was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1),” Journal of Theological Studies 62 (2011): 20–50.

(5) Peter K. Stevenson, “The Crucified God: Mark 15:25-39,” Direction 41, no. 1 (2012): 148–64.

(6) Joshua E. Leim, “In the Glory of His Father: Intertextuality and the Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of Mark,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 7, no. 2 (2013): 213–32.

Dan McClellan, “Son of God,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Joshua 2

Main point:

God has promised the land, God has prepared the land (e.g. people melting in fear), God will give the land as a possession, all as part of his purposeful work to fulfill his promises of land and people (e.g. Rahab as the first Canannite convert).

Main purpose:

We are to respond in faithful obedience; like the spies confidently working in cooperation with God’s purposes, and like Rahab recognizing the supreme sovereignty of God and submitting to His authority.

Supporting argument:

Joshua starts very positively, opening in chapter 1 with great promises by God to his people of land and success based on obedience (1:7). Joshua responds obediently (1:10-11), and the people respond obediently as well (1:16-18). The spies were confident in God’s promises (2:14, 24) unlike the spies of 40 years earlier (Num 13). What could improve on this? The answer – the faith of Rahab. The story of the faith of Rahab in Ch2 serves to both illustrate the validity of the promises of God (e.g. confirms that a great fear has fallen on the people of Jericho), and look forwards towards an expansion of the people of God to include both Jews and gentiles. “(Rahab’s) presence in the book of Joshua is a positive feature, displaying the outworkings of the Abrahamic covenant, God’s inclusive interest in all who would confess him as sovereign Lord, and his providential care for his own people.”(6) Rahab was a woman of a vibrant faith in action (Heb 11:31 and Jam 2:25), putting native-born Israelites to shame (1, 2), implying the justification of the condemnation of the Canaanite people for not sharing her faith (3), and ‘earning’ a place in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5). Rahab’s declaration of faith was personal and confident (‘I know’), specific (‘the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below’) and unconditional. It does not appear that the spies had sexual relations with Rahab as there is no hint of condemnation for their actions. Staying with a prostitute may have been a good way of gathering information about Jericho and function as a suitable place to stay without raising suspicion (4). Interestingly, although the Israelites were expressly forbidden from making covenants with the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-6), it appears as though Rahab’s expression of faith in God justified a covenant with her to save her family’s life. The declaration of the spies in 2:24 shows their confidence in a promise-keeping God and looks back to the song of Moses in Ex 15:13-15 as it looks as though God is causing those prophetic words to come true.


(1) Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Third.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 61.
(2) R. J. D. Knauth, “Alien, Foreign Resident,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 31.
(3) Philip Satterthwaite and Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament: The Histories (vol. 2; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 42–43.
(4) John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jos 2:1.
(5) Brenda Heyink, “Prostitution,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).
(6) David M. Howard Jr., Joshua (vol. 5; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 78-112

Applying the 10 Commandments to modern Christians

You shall not murder

This law is applicable to modern Christians because it was well established before the 10 commandments (Gen 4:10-11, 9:6) and is continued into the New Testament (Matt 5:21-26, Romans 13:9).

This is a law against the willful taking of life, and perhaps also against negligence or carelessness resulting in death. For the modern Christian, this is a law against disregarding God’s design for living in a peaceful society (Romans 12:18).This is a law against rejecting the rule of the creator God by claiming authority over life that only God rightly has.

But perhaps most significantly, it is a law against an attitude of the heart that does not love others (See Matt 5:21-26). That is, if ‘you shall not murder’ is the negative command, the New Testament clearly makes the positive version of the same command to be ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Romans 13:9). For modern Christians, the law to not murder is trumped and fulfilled in Jesus’ teaching to love others (Matt 7:12).

You shall not steal

This is a law against taking what is not yours. This law has a horizontal aspect of not taking from other people, but also a vertical aspect of not taking for yoursself things that God hasn’t given you. That is, it is a sin of rebelling against the rule of God and not trusting in his provision.

For a modern Christian, it is not always easy to identify when something is stealing. For example, accessing another persons information or creative work on the internet, or cleverly structuring your finances to reduce your amount of income tax payable. The legal system is not necessarily a clear guide either as it struggles to keep pace with technological change.

Paul argues in Romans 13:9 that this command is summed up in the one rule of loving your neighbour as ourself. That is, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10, and see Jesus comments in Matt 7:12). It is not enough then for us just not take from others, but we are to love others in actively pursuing their best interests (1 Thess 5:15).

So perhaps a good guide to inform how well we are keeping this command is not to ask the question “is this stealing?” but instead to ask “Am I acting in a way that seeks the best interests of the other party” – whether that be in regards to property, your investment of time, or your resources etc.

To seek the best interests of others always is also a way to guide your heart against failing to trust in God’s provision, as it takes your focus away from your own perceived needs and directs you to act in response to others needs first.

Interpreting parables and Luke 15

Parables are brief metaphorical narratives that have two levels of meaning (1). My guidelines for interpreting parables from the synoptic gospels are:

  1. Understand the parable as a simple story designed to be easily understood by a 1st Century audience (‘1st level’ of meaning)
  2. Look for anything in the simple story that might be unusual or challenging for this original audience. This may be a clue to the ‘2nd meaning’.
  3. Look at the context of the parable for hints as to how to understand. For example, is any explanation given? Is the parable in response to a question? How did the original audience respond?
  4. Consider the main characters of the story. Is there something to be learnt from each character? Is there a ‘master’ character that might consolidate what you learn from each subordinate character?
  5. Develop an understanding of the main point of the parable
  6. Check how this understanding fits within and supports the overall message of the Gospel
  7. Think about ways to apply this understanding of the parable to yourself

Applied to parables in Luke 15:

  1. Everybody understands the experience of losing something of value, whether it’s property, resources or people.
  2. The sheep and the coin appear to be modest loses. The response of the man and the woman in finding what was lost appears to be excessive. The behaviour of the father in the Lost Son story is highly unusual according to the customs of that day. The father appears to be excessively gracious, compassionate and forgiving to the Lost Son.
  3. Jesus tells the parables to address the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’. To be lost is to be a sinner in need of repentance. Jesus implies from the first two parables that his listeners should be joining with the angels of God in heaven and rejoicing over sinners who repent (15:7,10).
  4. The man, woman and father all appear to represent God. We learn that God cares for those who are lost, seeks the lost, and is compassionate and forgiving when the lost are found. The Lost son is another main character who presents a lesson on repentance. The older brother character represents the point of view of the Pharisees and scribes who do not share God’s joy at the repentance of sinners
  5. God loves to welcome repentant sinners into his family. I think Jesus is presenting himself as being the agency of God in seeking and saving the lost.
  6. Jesus repeatedly taught that his mission was focused on seeking and saving the lost (Luke 4:18-21, 5:32, 19:10). Jesus also taught the importance of repentance (Luke 3:3, 15:7).
  7. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who took no joy from repentant sinners. I am a repentant sinner myself. I should take more joy in God’s calling of me to repentance, as well as much joy from others who repent and turn to God. My ministry should be more closely reflective of Jesus’ ministry with an increased focus on those who are lost rather that just on those who are already found. Will I be a follower of Jesus with the attitude of the older brother, or will I adopt the attitude of the outrageous radical loving Father?

1. Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 299–309.
2. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 2014.
3. David A. deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, 337–342.
4. Garwood P. Anderson, ‘Parables’, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 650–663.

Exodus 3

Main point
God continues to fulfill his covenant promises to the people of Israel by revealing his redemptive plans, extending his self revelation, and graciously commissioning Moses as his emissary and prophet.

Main purpose
Know that God is the unparalleled and unbounded, faithful, gracious, almighty savior of his chosen people; and so we can confidently trust and obey.

Supporting argument

Fulfill his covenant promises –
God reveals himself to Moses as the God of the patriarchs (6) and instructs Moses to introduce him to the elders of Israel and the king of Egypt as the God of the patriarchs (15) and the God of the Hebrews (18). The words of God in Genesis 15 have come to pass – Abraham’s descendants have been enslaved for 400 years and God now needs to act to fulfill his promises of rescue (Gen 15:14) and in so doing, continue the process of fulfilling his promises to Abraham of people, blessing and land (Gen 12:3).

Revealing his redemptive plans –
God uses this promised redemptive act to extend the covenant promises established with the patriarchs. God promises to reveal not only his power to rescue (8), but also his compassion (7) and the comfort of his presence (12). God promises to not only bring his people up to the promised land, but to a “land flowing with milk and honey” (8), which is a picture of comfort and prosperity. God promises to not only powerfully rescue his people (20) but to cause the Egyptians to let them plunder them also (21-22).

Extending his self revelation –
In revealing his name to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’, God is revealing more of his nature and character. Of his nature, his name expresses the idea of being un-qualifiable, un-defineable, un-bounded by concepts that can be expressed in words – to say that God is anything is to bound his nature, and so the most fitting expression is just to say that ‘He is’ (‘He is’ is the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘Yahweh). Of God’s nature also, this self revelation declares his identity for all time and in being unbounded in nature, suggests that he is God for all people as well (15). Of his character, his name implies his presence with his people. i.e. ‘I am with you’ (Sailhammer, 246)

Graciously commissioning Moses –
After 40 years of shepherding in obscurity, God calls and commissions Moses to bring his people out of Egypt under God’s mighty hand (20). Whilst Moses is the lead human character in this story, Moses in his inadequacy and questioning appears to be a foil for revealing more of God. God graciously engages with Moses in conversation and answers Moses’ concerns. As we consider the character and experience of Moses, it is possible to learn something of how God chooses to work through human agents – we see God teaching Moses patience during his 40 years of shepherding; we see Moses learning humility and fear before a Holy God (6), we see the importance of a honest personal relationship with God prior to public ministry, and also see the primary importance of the presence and power of God in enabling humans to be his effective agents for his purposes. However the story is not ultimately about Moses (or us), but about God. As Hill argues, “The basic theological purpose of the book (of Exodus) is divine self-disclosure. God has not only remembered his covenant promises to the Hebrew patriarchs, but also has now revealed himself to Israel as Yahweh”.


Hill, Andrew E. A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).
Fretheim, Terence E. Exodus. (Louisville: John Knox, 1991).
Motyer, J. Alec. The Message of Exodus. (Leicester: IVP, 2005).
Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992).

What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

I found this book very helpful in pulling together all the good parts of different productivity systems and combining them in a way that keeps the gospel and working out it’s implications as the primary focus of our lives.

The book is very systematic and detailed, with helpful summaries and action points for each chapter.

If you’ve read much Steve Covey, David Allen and Scott Belsky, you will find a lot of his productivity theory familiar. I was able to skip over some bits that I’ve previously read and already benefited a lot from, from the other authors.

A few things I found particularly helpful:

  • schedule my whole week, and not just 9-5, so that I can actually give prayerful thought to how I can plan to do good
  • no man has a right to be idle. Be productive, so that I can do more good
  • integrate prayer in all aspects of productivity and planning
  • serve up (those above me in authority), and serve down
  • if you have the planning and architecting of your life right, at any given moment, you can ask the question ‘what’s best next’ and proceed in that way
  • planning my week is about maximising myself

You can buy this online from AmazonHere is the table of contents.

Some of my notes and key take-aways:

The book is all about combining theology and time management.
Productivity is about

  • effectiveness (not efficiency)
  • character (not technique)
  • God and others first
  • engagement (not control).

Measure productivity by results not activity
Focus on outcomes, not activities

This is about doing all things in the best way to the glory of God.

We need to learn how to work and be effective in a knowledge economy, where work is not defined, and we need to manage ambiguity and overload.

Do the RIGHT things, not just more of the wrong things in an efficient manner

The most important reality is a person, not a principle.

Being productive is maximising my stewardship of time, talents and resources.
It is in the mundane things we do everyday that we serve God and others
God wants us to do good works (Matt 5:16), so be productive to do as much good as I can

Be abundant and liberal in doing good
Be useful! Be joyful in obedience
Love is the guiding principle of productivity. Put others first
Character manifests itself in action (By their fruit…)
Let all your debts be motivated by love

Get everything out of your head in prayer
Only secure people can serve (i.e. justified by faith)

Decide what really matters, and then do it.
Do one thing at a time, and do first things first

What is my purpose – overall reason for existence – glorify God and enjoy him
What are my principles – the things I would live and die for
What are my core beliefs – gospel
What are my life goals – the things I really want to do and God wants me to do

Create a structure and routines for my week
Time is like space, it gets filled up, it needs to be managed well
To get more done, reduce – schedule to 70% and focus on getting each thing done.

Delegation is great because it’s also an act of love to empower others

Pray, pray, pray as I plan.

If I find I am procrastinating too much, maybe I am doing the wrong job?

Don’t spend all my energy climbing the ladder only to discover I am on the wrong ladder!

Be proactive – intentional, planned, prepared – about doing GOOD!

  • who will I intentionally seek to bless this week
  • what opportunities do I have
  • what blocks or risks are involved
  • what do I need to do to prepare today

Christian love disposes Christians to be public spirited – Jeremiah 29:7

Be creative, competent and audacious in doing all the good you can in the world

Make being useful the main design and ambition of your life, so that the world would be better for us having lived in it.

Mark 2:18-22

This pericope, occurring within the middle of a pattern of five conflict stories, summaries the main idea at the heart of the emerging conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities – Jesus’ ministry is not another alternative solution for realising the hopes of the Jewish faith. Jesus’ ministry marks the beginning of a new means of relating to God that replaces and fulfills all that has gone before. Whilst the major strands of the Jewish faith (from the hyper-religiousness of the Pharisees to the guerilla warfare of the Zealots) focused on the external realities of the people of God relating to politics, geography, national identity and so forth, Jesus’ ministry focuses on the internal problem of sin; the problem is within rather than without.

Fasting, a typical sign of external religion, was a common practice within Judaism. Fasting can generally be understood as a means of seeking to attain grace under the Old Covenant. However under the ministry of Jesus we attain grace by receiving and believing in Him (John 1:12, 16-18). Jesus uses the picture of a wedding feast with himself as the bridegroom to capture the contrast between the administration under the old and new covenants.

(Verse 20 appears to be a separate idea, perhaps a later addition to the narrative, and an early allusion in Mark’s gospel to the passion of Jesus with fasting used as a literal expression of mourning).

The twin illustrations in vv21-22 express the idea that although the ministry of Jesus may appear similar (new cloth on old cloth, new wine in old wine skins), it is in fact compatible within the paradigm of the Old Covenant.

The original audience for this Gospel were Christians undergoing persecution by the Roman authorities for their faith. The story of Jesus’ conflict with the authorities along with the imagery of the abundant wedding feast with Jesus would have served as a message of great comfort to them in their time of need (1 Peter 4:13).


  • Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Nottingham: Apollos, 2009)
  • James R. Edwards, The Pillar New Testament Commentary:The Gospel According to Mark (Eerdmans, 2002), 87–93.
  • David Garland, Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 102–106.
  • William Lane, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 107–113.
  • Robert Guelich, Mark 1:1–8:26 (Dallas: Word, 1989), 106–117.

Genesis 15

Main point
God is a gracious promise-making and promise-keeping God. His people are the undeserving recipients of his promised blessings.

Main purpose
Know that God is faithful and therefore respond in belief and obedience.

Supporting arguments
In chapter 14 we read about Abram’s military success, some hints at him bringing a blessing to the nations, and his demonstration of fidelity to God (and his priest). However chapter 15 opens with Abram in a pitiful and timid state, crying out to God for confirmation of his promised offspring (12:3, 7, 13:15).

Amidst the fear, the doubts, and the questioning from Abram, the overall impression from this chapter is that there is nothing particularly meritorious about Abram but for his believing the LORD in verse 6. It is to this undeserving recipient that God promises a very great reward (v1) in the form of innumerable offspring (v5) and an expansive and complete inheritance of land (v18-21) (The 10 people groups indicating a complete and whole number).

A plain reading of the chronology of the chapter suggests that God told Abram to look into the daytime sky to count the stars. If this was the case, then this adds another element to the belief of Abram; believe that God will provide innumerable offspring (as many stars in the sky), and, believe that God will do this despite an absence of any evidence (as the stars cannot be seen during the day).

Verse 6 functions as the fulcrum of the chapter, sitting between the promises of offspring and land, and making plain that Abram’s belief results in a right standing before God (credited as righteousness), which is the foundation upon which the covenant with Abram is established. It should be noted that Abram’s right standing then leads to expression and confirmation in his right living (Genesis 18:19, James 2:20-24), and ultimately serves as the platform for God’s blessing to the nations through the obedience of the nation of Israel. Note also that Abram was not the first to be credited righteousness through faith (Hebrews 11:7), but is recognised as being the model (or father) for all who believe in God, and ultimately in Christ, through faith (Romans 4:11-12, Gal 3:29).

A covenant ceremony of some kind, similar to that described in vv12-21, would have been a common practice of the ancient near East to bind parties to a long-term partnership. The precise meaning of each of the elements in the narrative is hard to determine due to a lack of direct corollary in either the Pentateuch or other writings from the same time period. However the one clear aspect of this covenant agreement is that it is God alone who binds himself to the covenant (Abram is in a deep sleep!), and in so doing, God binds himself to be responsible for delivering on all the promises of the covenant, ultimately fulfilled in the sacrificial death of the Son of God.

As it is God who initiates the covenant with Abram, God who binds himself to the terms of the covenant, and God alone who is able to fulfill the impossible promises of the covenant, it is the LORD God alone who should be believed and obeyed. How striking then are the sinful actions of Abram at the start of the very next chapter in believing the unsatisfied self-reliant urgings of his wife Sarai.


  • Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15 (Waco: Word, 1987), 322–335.
  • John H. Walton, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 420–423.
  • Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005)
  • Paul R Williamson, Abraham, Israel, and the Nations : The Patriarchal Promise and Its Covenantal Development in Genesis (Sheffield : Sheffield Academic Press,  2000), 260-267.
  • John E Hartley, Genesis (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series) (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), 240-253

Tower of Babel: Genesis 11:1-9

Summary point:
God’s people, in God’s world, God’s way.

Summary purpose:
Know your place, as God’s special chosen people, called out of the world, to honor and obey God.

Falling between genealogy accounts, this passage contributes an anachronistic explanation for the dispersion of people groups after the flood. The area where the Tower of Babel narrative occurs is mentioned in the preceding genealogy in Gen 10:10 as one of the emerging centres of people.

The error of the people in building a city and tower reaching to the heavens appears to be two-fold:

  1. They were disobeying the creation and post-flood mandates to fill and multiply on the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:7)
  2. They were attempting to be like God, and/or attempting to bring God down to humankind’s level, by building a tower that connects the earth to the heavens, the dwelling place of God

The narrative follows a similar pattern established throughout the earlier chapters of Genesis in revealing a God who deals with his disobedient creation in ways that show both his righteous judgment along with his grace. The pattern established usually involves sin, mitigation and then punishment, and varies in scope between individuals (Adam/Eve, Cain) to groups (Noah and his descendent’s).

In this story, the pattern reaches something of a climax, as God punishes ‘the whole world’ (Gen 11:1) for their sin by confusing their language and confounding their efforts. But by scattering the people over the face of the earth, He is also showing grace and providing a blessing to the ‘whole world’ by ensuring that His good purposes for humanity in multiplying and subduing his creation are realised.

The narrative clearly portrays God as the hero of the story. God matches their devious but complex plans by his own seemingly casual and simple act of language confusion. Twice the LORD is said to have scattered the people over the face of the earth. It is not that the people scatter, but that God scatters.

The story serves as a summary and conclusion to the theology and place of humanity in God’s world established in Genesis 1-11. It also serves as the context and launching point for the next stage of God’s history established through the Patriarchs and the founding of the nation of Israel. It is as though the lens on humanity focuses right out in chapter 11 to see the big picture of the ‘whole earth’ being directed by God to multiply and fill the earth, before focusing right back down from chapter 12 onto a single family line stemming from in Abram.

Andrew E. Hill, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 94.
John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Ge 10:1–32.
K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26 (vol. 1A; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 466.
W. Osborne, “Babel,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 73.

My summary of John’s Gospel

The key purpose of the Gospel of John is that those who read it might believe in who Jesus is (Messiah and Son of God), and by believing, have life in His name (John 20:31). Chapter 1 introduces this clear purpose as it outlines the main message of the Gospel (Believe in Jesus and become a child of God (v12)), as well as introduce all the key truths about Jesus which we must believe in order to be saved. That is, that Jesus is God (v1), God become man (v14), Son of God (v18), Christ/Messiah (v17), and Saviour (v29).

Alongside these grand and compelling truths about Jesus, the Gospel details the ministry of one who is deeply interested and invested in people. The Gospel contains a number of distinctive extended interactions between Jesus and both individuals (e.g. Nicodemus (ch3), the Samaritan woman(ch4)) and groups (the disciples (13-17), and “the Jews”).

Based on these truths about Jesus and the account of his life, the Gospel author John masterfully brings the thoughtful reader to a compelling choice – reject Him or receive Him. The one option that is not available to us is to remain indifferent to him (1).

Some other distinctive characteristics of this Gospel:

  • The clarity with which the divinity of Jesus is argued, not only in 1:1 but later in the “I am” phrases, clearly equating Jesus with the God of Israel (Exodus 3:14) (2).
  • The Gospel is full of repeated images, patterns, ideas and emphasis that all contribute to the strong and clear case for belief in Jesus as God. For example, Jesus calls us to drink from the well of life (Ch4) and eat the bread of life (Ch6), He calls us to walk in the light Ge provides (Ch8), and live in the vine (Ch15) which is Himself.
  • The dualism that emerges in the opening chapter and then continues throughout – light/darkness (1:5), life/death, in the world/not of the world, receive/reject etc (3).
  • Many familiar accounts from the other Gospels are absent (parables, the sermon on the mount, the transfiguration) yet Blomberg argues that “almost every distinctive passage in John finds at least short conceptual counterparts in one or a handful of much shorter Synoptic sayings somewhere”. (4)

As a Christian, it’s hard not to be be moved by Jesus’ prayer for all believers (me!) in Chapter 17, and then to be struck by the distinctly tender finish to the Gospel in chapter 21 as Jesus repeats the phrase ‘Peace be with you’, and then as Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples and charges Peter to ‘feed his lambs’.

As a slight aside, I was also struck by how John records the start of Jesus’ public ministry, by selecting the contrasting scenes of Him turning water into wine and then clearing the temple. Could you imagine a religious leader within the reformed evangelical tradition announcing their public ministry by promoting alcohol consumption, and then causing a public disturbance in a church meeting?

Structurally, there is a distinct beginning (1:1-19) and end (chapter 21), although chapter 21 may be a later addition (5). The Gospel opens and closes with Christ’s command to follow him (1:43, 21:19), again confirming the main purpose of the Gospel. I would divide the rest of the Gospel into 3 sections, split by Jesus’ long discourse with his disciples in chapters 13-17. The first section contains the main part of His earthly ministry and the latter section dealing with His arrest through to resurrection.

1. Elena Bosetti, John (n.p.: Pauline Books and Media, 2011), 8.
2. Joel Green, Jeannine Brown and Nicholas Perrin, ‘The Dialectical Theology Of John’, Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels (USA: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 2013), 400.
3. John Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel (New York:Oxford University Press, 2007), 387-418.
4 C. L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009) , 178.
5. Graham Stanton, The Gospels And Jesus (2nd ed.; n.p.: Oxford University Press, 2002), 98.

Bootcamp reflections

I had my first ‘face-to-face’ experience of Ridley College this weekend at their (our?) 24hr Bootcamp, to start the academic year, and welcome new students (like me).

It was just under 3hr drive to the campsite at Upper Plenty. I was one of maybe one or two others that had come to the Bootcamp as online students. I met one guy who had traveled all the way from Perth. Still, it didn’t stop every single person I met from commenting on how good it was that I had travelled down for the event.

I’m really glad I went. I think it will prove invaluable over the next few years to have real faces, personalities and stories behind the names and written words that I interact with online.

It was rewarding for me to connect with a number of people on a personal level, to get a better feel for what Ridley College is all about, both formally and the vibe of the place, and to have my heart stirred more broadly and bigg-ly to consider Christian ministry in general – the call to it, different expressions and experiences of it, different pathways etc.

I picked up on a few elements of what I think are aspects of Ridley college culture:

  • An emphasis on community – based on shared life experience of studying at College, a common faith, but also community as a way to account for what appears to be a fairly diverse collection of Christian denominations. (I had a few conversations where people commented how Ridley is keen to train anyone to equip them for Christian ministry, whether they are Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist (pentecostal?) etc).
  • I enjoyed the singing. I don’t know whether it’s particular to Ridley, or this particular group of people we had, or whether I could expect it generally at any Christian college, but everyone sang with so much enthusiasm and volume (regardless of singing ability). Sure, some of the voices weren’t great, but it was the combination of all the enthusiastic voices that actually created it’s own unique musical feel – even the off notes and the droning voices combined in a weird kind of mix with the pitch perfect voices to create a rich and intriguing harmony
  • Almost all the Faculty were there, and I bumped into a few of them assuming they were students. They seemed to all enjoy being part of the experience alongside the students. They all knew each other by name and had an obvious affection for each other.
  • There were a lot more females than I expected. There was at least as many female students there as males.
  • There was a lot of talk about ‘discernment’ – or rather, that word kept popping up – the year of discernment before one becomes a candidate within Melbourne Diocese, discerning the things that are disputable matters when Christian disagree, discerning what is best from amongst all the good choices for ministry etc.

I’m really not sure how I feel about on-campus college study now. I had some good conversations with people who encouraged me to consider it. Clearly it’s preferable in most ways for people going into full-time paid Christian ministry. But I don’t think it’s always the best way for everybody.

I think my two main reservations are; leaving currently life and ministry in Albury to pursue it (and all the drastic implications of that), and that I feel like I’m not done with my current professional career yet – there’s a few aspects I haven’t quite resolved, one of which is how to be an effective Christian in a secular workplace.

Reflections from Week 1 Old Testament foundations

Purpose and goal of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)

  1. orthodoxy: Right thinking
  2. orthopraxis: right action

It’s more than just that OT is fulfilled in Christ, but that the OT does not have the proper meaning if not seen in the light of Christ.

Need to be mindful of multiple authors and audiences of the Scripture. It is God and man, but human factors will influence how/what is written.

Genesis 1 was not designed and written to answer the question ‘how’ but ‘who’
Who: All powerful, singular, speaking, living, one true God

Genesis functions as an ancient apologetic with themes and messages counter to other creation narratives e.g. 1 God sovereign over all, humans the pinnacle of creation, global inclusion account rather than tied to particular people

To be made in God’s image is to be his representatives and to exert his rule under him. When we fail to rule under God, we fail to live up to our image (see Nebuchadnezzar humbled as a wild animal)

Model for interpreting the bible:

  1. Look up (prayer)
  2. look down (exegesis)
  3. look back and
  4. look forward (biblical theology)
  5. look here (application)

Mark’s gospel

These are my 250 words on this topic from Week 1 of the subject NT501: Jesus and the Gospels.

How do you think Mark wants his readers to respond to his document? Can you outline something of the shape of his Gospel?

Mark wants his readers to respond with interest and awe at this compelling character who is clearly commissioned by God, with the authority and power of God to bring about the fulfillment of the good news of His kingdom, through his servant-like ministry.

Mark’s account is largely straight-forward and action-packed, devoid of flourish or poetry. Lacking also is much that would resonate with a Jewish audience as there is little in the way of explicit Old Testament references. The account appears not to be concerned with Jesus ancestry or background prior to his formal ministry commencing.

The pace slows down so much in the account of the last few days of Jesus’ life before his execution that it feels as though the action moves in slow motion. This is done by Mark I think to focus the reader on the significance of each scene and of the crucifixion and resurrection period in general as it is at the heart of the message of this Gospel about the purpose and work of Jesus in his earthly ministry.

Some other interesting aspects of this Gospel that influence the shape and impact of the message:

  • A ministry of healing both the body and the soul – and these are often linked in that Jesus readily responds to those that show faith.
  • A ministry in tension with Jesus not wanting his full identity to be known – that the crowds might hinder his ministry, that people might be attracted to him for the wrong reasons.
  • The kingdom of God is so challenging and counter-cultural character (first will be last, lose your life to save it, inside not outside, be like little children etc)
  • The disciples are accounted for in a few unflattering ways; They don’t seem to get the real meaning behind much of Jesus’ teaching and often appear to miss the point, particularly the big point of Jesus’ death and resurrection
  • The most extended direct teaching of Jesus appears to be about persecution, end times, Jesus return
  • Jesus is a character deeply interested and invested in people. Very busy doing good – teaching and healing

Before I begin

How am I feeling as I commence the first two subjects of what will hopefully become a Masters of Divinity?

  • I am strangely feeling very knowledge-less. Despite all the stuff I know is in my head already, it feels like I am a blank slate ready to be filled up with information
  • I am feeling very unsure of how well I will manage the study commitments alongside all the other ‘stuff’ in my life
  • I am feeling under pressure to make the most of each day; to use my time most effectively and to not squander too much time; to not put off till tomorrow what I can do today; but I need to be careful to not obsess too much about future commitments that I neglect to live each day. For example, I find in myself the tendency to spend a lot of time today getting ready for tomorrow. Sure, it means that tomorrow will probably run much more smoothly, but I’ve just sacrificed one day for the sake of another. Sometimes this may not be worth the sacrifice
  • I am feeling excited about investing more of myself (time, energy, money) into pursuits that I believe are of eternal value
  • I am enjoying the feeling of uncertainty around what the future holds (of course this is always the case, but by deliberately making decisions that have removed certain allusions of security such as full-time employment, I am more aware of my lack of control); of feeling risky; of feeling a pinch into my comfort and security
  • I am enjoying the opportunities I am getting to talk to people about my work and study plans. I need to think more about how to frame the conversation in such a way that I can talk of my love for Jesus and his people; which are really the driving motivations behind my plans

World War Z review

I am a big fan of zombie apocalypse fiction, and the whole post apocalyptic genre in general. I don’t understand why, and I’ve continued to avoid self analysing too much. But I agree it’s a strange genre for a Christian to be enthralled by. I’ve seen all the movies and the TV shows, and so this was my first Zombie novel. I picked it up for cheap from Amazon for my Kindle as some light holiday reading, which indeed it was. I hear there has been a movie made, and it’s entertained me enough that I will no doubt watch the movie at some stage, although I’m in not great rush.

Things I didn’t love:

  • The entire novel is made up of a series of very short vignettes. This approach does bring some advantages (see ‘things I did appreciate’ section), however what it fails to do is create characters that you get to know well enough to care about in any kind of cathartic way
  • Related to the above, the novel doesn’t give enough detail into the specific drama of the Zombie war. Even with all the stories combined, the overall narrative doesn’t feel like it has enough ‘meat’ on it that I can connect to or care about or really picture in my mind’s eye
  • Probably mostly to do with the reasons above, the story didn’t enthrall me. I was interested enough to finish the novel, but it wasn’t a book that I ‘had to finish’

Things I did appreciate:

  • The vignette approach meant that the story was able to easily jump from one character in a particular situation, to another entirely different part of the world with no connection to the first. This meant that the novel was able to tell a very broad and expansive story. I enjoyed seeing the action from all different perspectives and feeling like each small story unveiled another small piece of the larger story. However see ‘Things I didn’t love above’ – this meant there was great breadth at the expense of depth.
  • You never knew what was coming next – each new chapter was ‘fresh’ in that it introduced a character you hadn’t met before giving their perspective on the same story you’d been following all the way through. I like how this worked
  • It felt like the author had really considered how the world could realistically end up responding to an event like this. He considered the strengths and weaknesses in existing ideological, social and cultural structures, and how they may respond to a Zombie crisis.
  • The author kept a focus on the most interesting elements of the story – individual stories. He didn’t get caught up trying to explore all the nuances of how the world would respond. He kept it tight and personal
  • Like all good Zombie apocalypse fiction, there was plenty of ‘action’ throughout – plenty of references to different ways to kill them, and different ways to get killed by them
  • I feel my Zombie worldview has expanded a little now. I’ve got some interesting new data on how they operate and what the world around them might be like e.g. the ocean would be full of them, there would be a LaMOE in every town, they would freeze stiff in cold places in Winter (so escape North!), and tricking them into ‘suicide’ might be a good battle tactic…

If you are a Zombie fiction fan, I suggest you give it a read.

The masculine mandate: God’s calling to men by Richard D. Phillips

My highlighted notes below:

Very few of us fit stereotype of man’s man, but all of us can fulfill God’s mandate for men: bear fruit for his glory in this fallen world;

Be a Godly man, a loving husband, a good father and a faithful friend i.e. Be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God, to bear God’s fruit by serving and leading.

Work and keep i.e. Genesis 2:15 mandate.

Invest my time and energies and ideas into bringing good things into being. Work/build and keep/protect everything placed into my charge

Colossians 3:17

There can be no higher calling in live than to cooperate with God in being further conformed to his image.

Daily grind: read, pray, work, play

Greatest most powerful passion a father can give his children is passion for the Lord and his gospel of grace.

There will come a day when God will pull down the scaffolding of world history and then point to his masterpiece: Jesus Christ. So, fix your eyes on that day that all our labour is directed: when God will fully manifest his glory.

quick catch up…


Maisie is 8 now – and has been for almost half a year. She loves to read and LOVES school, ballet and dancing and singing and swimming. Her teachers tell me what a beautiful loving friend she is which makes us super proud. She has loved year 2 and is excited about year 3.


Tally turned 7 in July and as I type this is in the pool swimming laps of backstroke and freestyle trying to improve her strokes! She also loves school and is very athletic and still loves her sleep! She is at the top of her reading levels for year 1 and is busy trying to guess what teacher she will have in year 2! When I asked her 3 things that she loves she said “Mumma, Daddy and the hammock”…


Alice is about to turn 6 and finish her first year of Kinder. We have had a busy year with Alice and working out how to control the beast inside her, and with the help of Dr Jo and cutting out numbers and colours from our diet there has been a massive change in her behaviour. She just told me that she loves swimming in the pool, bouncing her ball and rocking in the hammock (she likes to know what Im doing at all times…)


Pippa (or pippy, stinkerbell, tootsmcfruits) is “finally 4” as she likes to tell people this week. She is a clumso – always hurting herself somehow. She tries very hard to keep up with her big sisters. She loves “tiny little babies” which is good because we have a few around us at the moment! She goes to pre school on a friday morning and has lots of friends – that are all boys!