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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Traversing Affliction

This morning I was reading in Exodus.  The chapters assigned were 1 – 2.  Actually, that was the reading last week some time.  But, because of chemo and getting the second Covid vaccine, I was not able to think or read after Tuesday morning, so I am doing some catch up.

I was struck, not for the first time, by Exodus 1:10 – 14 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Some context, for a while now, I have been pondering how or why the Lord is using the past five years and specifically the cancer to equip my wife and me for that which He designed us.  Reading Exodus 1:10 – 14 (here @ Bible Gateway), and thinking about God’s knowledge of our path, Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway), it occurs to me that what comes into our lives is intentional, purposeful.  To validate that for yourself, consider Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway), Hebrews 12:4 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway), Romans 5:1 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway), 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Back to Exodus…  We know from the rest of the book that Moses is going to lead the nation out of their bondage to Egypt.  That is not a trivial journey.  The nation is going to have to flee the Egyptian army, cross miles of wilderness, essentially living off the land while carrying everything they can including shelters.  Serious backpacking trip under duress. 

Note what happened prior to Moses showing up.  The Egyptians forgot Joseph.  They began to afflict Israel.  They gave them difficult, physically demanding work.  They “compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously”.

Since we see in the Word that the Lord is sovereign, able to control the hearts of kings, Proverbs 21:1 (here @ Bible Gateway); isn’t it reasonable that the Lord used the Egyptian’s fear of Israel and their response to compel them into rigorous labor as preparation for the rigorous journey out of Egypt that was just around the corner for the nation?

So, if we are facing difficult times, perhaps we should be asking the Lord to help us understand it as prep.  We certainly may not, and probably won’t, get an explanation as to the specifics of the reason for the prep.  But, praying or asking in that way will remind us that is the case, it is prep.  

It may be as simple as creating for us a platform from which to encourage and comfort others who are going through similar trials as 2 Corinthians 1:3ff (here @ Bible Gateway) suggests.  It may be to develop our character as Romans 5:1ff (here @ Bible Gateway) and Hebrews 12:4ff (here @ Bible Gateway) declare.  It may be for reasons that we never are able to determine.  It is still prep.

Regardless, whether we understand or not, praying for understanding will remind us not only that He is intentional in what He brings into our lives, but also that we can trust Him through the process.

I do not pretend to suggest that this will make any of the difficulties less difficult.  However, it could more accurately align our focus and faith.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Review of the NIV Study Bible

Review of the NIV Study Bible
In September of 2019 I was asked to review the Quest Study Bible.  This last fall I was asked to Review the NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition.  I am invited to do so and provided a review copy because I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid.  I was supposed to have this done by the end of October, but the effects of chemo did not allow that to happen.  So this is late along with two other reviews that will be published here shortly.  As with the Quest review, I will address the good and the things I consider not so good about this work.

The Good
There is much to recommend this Bible.  Much of that is the front and back matter.  For any Bible you use you should read the preface.  Why?  The preface explains the reason for the version and the philosophy of translation.  Further, there is usually information about how the work is organized.  The committee will also point out which parts of the work of which they are especially proud.  

In the case of this work, the parts that are highlighted are very good.  There are several articles included that explain or expand parts of the Biblical text or story that are good.  There is a table of contents at the beginning of the book that is specific to those articles.  Reading through that table one would be inclined to read several of them.  The titles alone are instructive in the sense that they deal with questions or sections of the Bible about which many believers are curious.

The map section in the back is very good. Additionally, there are maps throughout the Bible showing the locations that are referenced in the text.  That gives one geographic orientation as one is dealing with a section without having to pull out an atlas.  In the front of the book there is an index of all the maps.  That index is presented by book of the Bible which is especially helpful.

There are also a number of helpful charts that would help the student synthesize or understand sections of scripture.  As with the articles and maps, there is a separate index for the charts which is also presented by book of the Bible.  Looking at the book of the Bible and seeing the charts related to that book is instructive.

Genesis pages 12 - 13 NIV Study Bible
The cross references are good and many.  The charts are informative and have their own table of contents.  The articles are adjacent to the Scripture to which they are most relevant, and they have a separate table of contents.  The notes have a topical index.

At the beginning of each book of the Bible there is an introduction and outline of the book.  These have helpful information about the author, date, and content of the book.  The outlines are detailed.  I would recommend that one do and overview of the book including one’s own outline before reading these.  The reason is that once you read their outline it will be difficult for you to see anything differently.  There are significant differences between the outlines published and the ones I have done for each book.  That is not to say either mine or the published outlines are wrong, it just means that this gives you a chance to compare what you see to what is published.

There is in the back several helpful tools.  First there is a topical index to all of the notes.  For instance, suppose you are studying Hebrews and you have a question about Melchizedek.  The index lists all the Biblical passages that have a note that mentions him.  

There is a good concordance in the back of the book.  The preface calls it the most complete concordance ever published in a Bible.  I would not dispute that.  It allows you to find a passage based on a word that you remember in that passage.

Lastly, and for me this is the most appealing thing about this work, there are center column cross references in this Bible.  They are extensive.  These give the student a means to study themes and or words throughout the Bible.  It is a good exercise for either study or devotions to chase a theme through these cross references.

The Not So Good
If you have read my review of the Quest Study Bible you will know that I am not a fan either of the NIV or study Bibles in general.  

I do not prefer the dynamic equivalence philosophy of translation.  I believe that there are too many choices made for the student.  Admittedly, this version of the NIV altered the passage that I found the most troubling, but their choices still do not reflect the Greek wording.  While the choices made by the committee may in fact be accurate, making the choice for the student eliminates the student’s investigation of the text and short circuits their coming to their own conclusion as to the point of the author.  It adds, I believe, an unnecessary layer of insulation between the student and the original.

This version of the NIV takes this further in that it changes the gender of many of the statements in order to align with the most common use of English.  The problem with this is that the Bible texts were not written in English.  Rather, they were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Those languages have gender associated with pronouns and nouns.  It was by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that these languages, the vocabulary, and the associated grammar were used to reveal the nature and character of God and His redemption of His people.  As I have stated in the earlier review, it seems that choosing to accept the gender issues of the world is in violation of Romans 12:1 – 2.

Despite my aversion to the NIV, this work would be a good resource to use after one has done one’s own study.  The introductions, and outlines would be helpful for most students.  The articles would also be helpful, especially since they are indexed to the books of the Bible and are adjacent to the passages to which they refer.

I would use this as a commentary rather than a Bible.  I would use the tools to either further my personal study on a passage or a topic using the copious cross references, or else to compare my conclusions with those of the committee.  I would study a more literal version and use this as a supplement.  

Another use would be to check a literal translation (as NASB or ESV) with the NIV and where there are significant differences in the translations, this raises the appropriate question of what is happening in the text that is causing this difference.  That is where Bible Gateway can help.  One can look at the interlinear version to see what the original says and use a lexicon to look up different options for the meaning of the word or do a search on the word for other places it is used in the Bible to compare with the passage you are studying.

Bible Gateway Interlinear
In Bible Gateway ( if you choose the interlinear, you can click on the anglicized Greek word and a box will open on the right giving you the word in Greek, it's Strong Number and Greek Number.  Clicking on the link "see everywhere apostolos appears..." takes you to Bill Mounce's  helpful website with a full list of where the word appears in the New Testament.

Should you choose to get a copy you can get one here.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Saved for Whom

When you consider your salvation, whose benefit, for what reason were you saved?  Do you ever think about that?  Sometimes it seems as if we accept Christ for what He can do for us.  Yes, we get eternal life, but we also expect Him to take care of us here.  In fact, He does.  But are we saved primarily for the good it does for us?

Ezekiel 36:22 (here @ Bible Gateway), seems to indicate that God intervenes in our lives to protect His name.  1 Corinthians 1:30 (here @ Bible Gateway) suggests that it is God who works to bring us to Christ.  That notion seems to be repeated in Philippians 2:12 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Further we cannot discount John 15:5 (here @ Bible Gateway), we can do nothing apart from Christ.  I would assume that that means, nothing.

So, He invades our lives to bring us to Himself.  He does it for His purposes.  Ephesians 2:4 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway) underscores this and gives us the reason He chooses to engage in our lives.  We are His workmanship.  He has work for us to do for which He designed us.  Work that was prepared before we were.

What are the implications of all that for us?  How do those passages affect your thinking?