Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review: The Temple and the Tabernacle

I just finished reading "The Temple and the Tabernacle" by J. Daniel Hays and must say this was a excellent read. One might at first glance think a book by such a title deals only with issues of the Old Testament and belongs buried in the stacks of Old Testament Studies but this is not the case with this book. The very first thing that struck me when I opened this book was the colour. The book has many full colour illustrations throughout featuring artist renderings, archaeological finds and photos of scale models. The images are high quality and wonderfully compliment the text.

As for the text itself, the eight chapters are written in very accessible language keeping this book very readable. Though easy to read, it is full of excellent material and thoughtful insights. One thing that Hays does well in this book is begin with a succinct summary and finish with a conclusion that offers how this topic relates to the church today. This "so what" conclusion really helps one reflect on the content of the book and how to read the Old Testament in light of it. I think one of the most important points Hays makes here is showing how through the tabernacle and the iterations of the temple God was seeking to dwell with us but His holiness and our sinfulness required levels of separation. When one looks back on levels of separation that were required between us and the most holy place, it helps us see the incredible gift we have that the Holy Spirit now dwells within us.

One section that found particularly interesting was the chapter on Solomon's temple and the comparison between the construction account in 1 Kings and the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus. His comparison of the two accounts helps show the trajectory the nation of Israel is on through the remainder of the book of Kings and provides a useful background to the events recorded in the remainder of 1&2 Kings.

The chapter dealing with the temple in the New Testament is also quite helpful. Apart from addressing the theological issues around the Temple in light of the reality of Christ, Hays does a great job at providing the background to the New Testament events that occur in and around the temple. His treatment of this background helps bring the events of the Gospels and Acts alive and give the reader a deeper appreciation of those events.

Overall I think this is a wonderful book that will enrich one's understanding of one of the most important structures and institutions found in scripture and give one a deeper appreciation of the God who seeks to dwell with us.

(I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lamentations - A Festal Garment

One of the books I read this past summer was "Five Festal Garments" by Barry G. Webb. This book is part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series from IVP, which is a series of scholarly works tackling various parts or issues within the Bible. There are several topics addressed in this series that I find most intriguing and have found the volumes I've got to have pushed me deeper and challenged me.

This volume was certainly one that deepened my understanding of the five shortest books of the Old Testament (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther) by exploring how they fit into the whole of scripture. The reason for the title of the book is that each of these five OT books have been associated with one of the five Jewish festivals. It turns out the Jewish people spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out exactly how to handle these books (as seen by the various places some of these books found themselves in terms of location within the OT) and eventually lined them up with their festivals. This is an interesting use of these books that was not adopted in the Christian Liturgical calendar, but one that is certainly worth considering. 

The one I found most interesting was the use of Lamentations in conjunction with the annual festival on the ninth of ab (mid-summer) which is a day to fast and mourn the tragic events of their people's history. Lament is something we in the western world do not do well and I was really struck at how healthy this day of lament could be. The original intent of Lamentations was to lament the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. The festival has developed further to commemorate a number of tragic events in Jewish history. 

Lament as a whole, corporate or personal, is something that has not translated well into our western evangelical context. We seem to be good at lamenting the sins and misdeeds of our nation but not so good at including ourselves in that equation, corporately or individually. Lamentations serves as a corporate lament for corporate sin. The Bible also has plenty of guidance for personal lament, particularly within the Psalms, giving us words to say in those times when we want to express our grief. Life will always include times of sorrow and proper lament can be healthy and the idea of a time of lament worked into the calendar to force us to pause and lament for what needs to be lamented for could be very healthy.